When I start planning a book, the first thing I work on is my character sketches. And the first part of the character sketch I work on is my main character’s physical description. I want to be able to picture him or her as I write. If it’s a short story, then I admit I don’t always write this down. Sometimes I find a picture in a magazine. Short stories don’t take long to write, so I can hold a lot of character information in my head.
However, if I’m writing a novel, then I have to write my character information down somewhere or I’ll forget. I may not remember on page 150 what color my character’s eyes are, but my reader will, so I definitely don’t want to get it wrong. I write character sketches for all my main characters in a novel, as well as some of the secondary characters, depending on the part they play in the plot.
The age of your character is very important, and you as the writer need to know what it is, even if you never mention it in your book.
If you’re writing for children, then the age of your main character will often be the determination of what category it’s placed in. Board books are for children from birth to around age 2 or 3. Young picture books are for children 3-5, and older picture books are for children 5-7 (or older). Middle-grade novels are usually for ages 9-12, and Young Adult novels are aimed at teens and early adult reader (early 20s). Therefore, the age of your main character should be within those age ranges so you reader can easily identify with him or her.
Characters in adult novels don’t always have specific ages, but it helps if you know. How a character reacts to certain situations may depend in part on how old they are. A twenty-six year old woman looking forward to having her first child probably won’t react the same way a sixty-five year old grandmother of ten would react. A twenty-two year old man might feel differently about his first job than a forty-five year old man in the same position for the past twenty years. A woman approaching her 30th birthday may feel differently about it than a woman approaching her 70th birthday.
And speaking of birthdays, how does your character feel about them? Does he or she celebrate them happily each year? Does he or she try to avoid them? Does your character want to be older, younger, or is he happy with his age?
You can see that the age of your character matters a great deal, so you need to take a little time in considering hold old to make him or her. This will figure into the plot and its obstacles either directly as part of the main problem to be solved or indirectly in choices your character makes.